Air Force leadership talks total force

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of senior leadership from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, as well as the principal deputy to the secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, convened for a discussion panel regarding the status of the total force at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C.

The panel discussed the current climate of the total force and how leadership is working to address ways to improve performance, funding, communication and personnel issues. 

In his opening remarks, Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, outlined two initiatives senior Air Force leadership is pushing to streamline structure and enhance performance across the force. The first being the One Air Force Line of Effort, which began as a response to a report from the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. 

(We) figure out how we can bring those recommendations in, make them real and our total force better,” Holmes said. “We’ve added items of our own to that list and continue to work to remove barriers, whether policy or legislative, to help make the most effective and efficient organizations we can build.” 

This month, leadership is slated to undergo the arduous task of rewriting policy to improve inter-force associations and essentially enhance communication between the three components, the general said. 

The second line of effort aims to find ways to develop more capabilities at the same cost of current operations. According to Holmes, there is a 12 percent lack of ability to provide the number of deployments combatant commands have asked for. Therefore, total force leadership is looking for better ways to integrate assets to make up for the shortfall. 

“We use high velocity analysis to try to find ways to develop more capabilities at the same cost by making our components work together or can we improve our capability and find the cheapest way to provide additional capability to address that 12 percent gap,” he said. 

According to Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, the Air National Guard director, although the Air Force has a pretty effective strategy in place for disseminating missions across the force, there is still a shortfall in manpower due to funding. 

“Inside the Air Force the Total Force Continuum continues to look at how you transfer a mission with the force structure of the Guard and Reserve,” he said. “Throughout that analysis much is revealed a lot of it is pretty well placed. In almost every single analysis, however, we don’t have enough (manpower) to do the mission now.” 

The ANG director went on to say the Air Force has to be careful. If the Air Force drawdown is too small, they won’t be able to access as many separating members leaving active duty to go into the Guard and Reserve. The other reaction the Air Force wants to avoid, to save money, is to drawdown pipeline students coming into the Guard and Reserve from training. He strongly advised all things be considered when weighing where the appropriation of funds comes from in order to maintain the health of the Guard and Reserve and therefore the total force.

Lt. Gen. James Jackson, the Air Force Reserve chief and Air Force Reserve Command commander, expressed that part of the funding solution may be something the Reserves has been doing since the 1960s when they began to share assets with the active-duty side. 

“The Reserves has been doing associated construct the longest,” he said. “It’s a cost-efficient model with which you can get more capability. Having two wings and two components working on the same equipment is something we need to continue.”

Daniel Sitterly, the principal deputy assistant, also cited a number of areas of interest currently being worked. 

“Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has a total force executive committee that is now tracking 78 specific initiatives and we’ve made progress in areas such as expediting indispensability accessions, raising the Reserve component aviation incentive pays, funding for equipping Airmen, total force recruiting system, DD214 consolidation, special salary rates and time-in-grade waivers for Reserve technician pilots and many more,” he said.

Despite the current issues and funding limitations, Air Force leadership continues to find new and innovative ways to help streamline processes and improve the effectiveness of resources. 

“The more educated we’ve become the more integrated we’ve become,” Sitterly said. “We all bring something to the fight. We all have different policies and processes and when we bring everyone together and educate each other on what those skillsets are the better we are able to execute our mission.”

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